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West Virginia is an ideal year-round vacation destination with endless places to visit ranging from beautiful mountain retreats to quaint historic towns. With so many opportunities to enjoy outdoor recreation, the state is a mecca for the active traveler but also a nice place to relax and unwind in a natural setting. Popular activities include hiking, biking, fishing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, zip lining, ATVing, horseback riding, and more. Winter activities include downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and ice skating. For history lovers, heritage sites abound throughout the mountains offering glimpses of how the Civil war, colonial life, and early explorers all helped shape American culture. While there are dozens of fun places to explore, here are ten of the must-see sights in West Virginia.
Harpers Ferry is a historic town and National Historic Park, the site of the abolitionist John Brown's raid on the Armory in 1859 during the American Civil War. Located just 66 miles northwest of Washington DC, the scenic town sits along the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers at the borders of three states: West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia. Visitors can explore museums and exhibits, hike to overlooks or along Civil War skirmish lines, take a ranger-guided tour or living history workshop. Nearby recreational activities include white water rafting, fishing, mountain biking, tubing, canoeing, hiking, zip lining, and rock climbing. Read more about Harpers Ferry
Snowshoe Mountain is the largest ski area in West Virginia and has the region's highest vertical drop. The resort has lots of activities and a wide range of accommodations. This is the best skiing in the region. Snowshoe is a full scale resort with lots of lodging and restaurants nearby. Activities include downhill and cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowcat tours, snowmobiling, snowshoe tours, indoor pool, hot tubs, mini golf, and arcades. During the summer months, visitors enjoy the mountain bike park, hiking, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, golf, zip lining and more. Worth a visit nearby are the Green Bank Observatory and the Cass Scenic Railroad.
New River Gorge
The New River Gorge region of West Virginia is the outdoor recreation capital of the Eastern U.S. known for its whitewater rafting, mountain biking, hiking trails, rock climbing, skiing and fishing. New River Gorge National River protects and preserves 53 miles of the New River. Two visitor centers, Canyon Rim and Sandstone operate year round, and two are open seasonally; Grandview and Thurmond open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Food, lodging, and full service campgrounds are plentiful in the gateway communities surrounding the park. Visit the towns of the New River Highlands and examine the area's rich industrial heritage, a time when railroads, coal mines, and company stores blanketed the coal fields of the region.
Seneca Rocks is one of the best-known scenic attractions in West Virginia, most popular for rock climbing and hiking. Located within the Monongahela National Forest in the Eastern Panhandle, the rocks are a magnificent formation of white/gray Tuscarora quartzite rising nearly 900 feet above the North Fork River. The quartzite is approximately 250 feet thick and is located primarily on exposed ridges as caprock or exposed crags. With elevations ranging from around 1,000 feet to 4,863 feet above sea level, the park offers beautiful views, wildlife, and the highest point in the state. The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center offers interpretive programs on weekends during the summer months. Read more about Seneca Rocks here.
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Located in southern West Virginia between the towns of Summersville and Fayetteville, the Gauley River National Recreation Area contains class III to V rapids and is one of the best places to go whitewater rafting in the eastern U.S. The 25-mile river passes through scenic gorges and valleys and offers a prime destination for outdoor adventure. A number of licensed tour operators offer guided rafting trips. The National Park Service offers primitive camping at a site just below Summersville Dam, and the Army Corps of Engineers has full-service camping available at Summersville Lake. The lake offers boating, diving, swimming and more. The rugged cliffs are great for hiking and climbing.
Blackwater Falls State Park and Canaan Valley
Blackwater Falls cascade 60 feet over sandstone ledges over the Blackwater River as they continue to rush through an eight-mile-long gorge. The falls are accessible year-round from steps and viewing platforms. The state park has a lake as well with boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. There is a lodge and cabins that provide accommodations for an overnight stay. Nearby, Canaan Valley Resort, offers overnight lodging, several restaurants, a world class golf course, conference facilities, a 43-slope ski area, a snow tubing trail, a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, whirlpool spa and miles of hiking, biking and cross country ski trails.
Greenbrier State Forest & the Greenbrier Resort
The Greenbrier State Forest provides more than 5,100 acres of scenic mountainous terrain for outdoor recreation including hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, disc golf and more. Cabins and campsites are available April through October. The Greenbrier River Trail is a 78-mile long rail trail that is popular for bicycling, backpacking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. Located nearby in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, the Greenbrier is an award-winning resort and a National Historic landmark with more than 50 recreational activities available including three championship golf courses, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a 40,000-square-foot spa and more. Once a top secret U.S. government relocation facility for Congress, the Bunker at the Greenbrier is now a tourist destination open to the public. A guided tour takes you behind the scenes to learn about this unique property.
Coopers Rock State Forest
Located just 13 miles east of Morgantown, West Virginia, Coopers Rock State Forest is a prime destination for hiking as it features bands of rockcliffs that line the Cheat River Gorge and provide numerous overlooks. Several trails wind through forest valleys and over ridges, and a number of creeks. Wildlife throughout the forest includes squirrels, chipmunks, hawks, owls, turkeys, turkey vulture, songbirds, fox and deer. The nearby Cheat River runs for 78.3 miles and is one of the top places to go whitewater rafting in the region.
Hatfield and McCoy Trails
The Hatfield and McCoy Trail System is one of the largest off-road vehicle trails systems in the country extending over 600 miles through West Virginia. Open to ATV’s, UTV’s and dirt bikes, the trails are open year-round. There are seven different trails, however, the Pocohantas Trailhead is the newest section and located in the historic town of Bramwell, where lodging and restaurants are available. These trails are more scenic and have a lower percentage of difficult sections than some of the other trail systems. Pinnacle Rock State Park is nearby and features an unusual sandstone formation reaching 3,100 feet above sea level.
Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park and Stonewall Resort
Stonewall Resort is an award-winning lakeside lodge with cottages, a conference center, restaurants, a fitness center and swimming pool, spa and an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course. The resort is located at Stonewall Jackson Lake State Park in Roanoke, West Virginia near The Briar Point Campground and The Stonewall Marina. The lake is a popular spot for fishing and boating. The park also offers 16 miles of hiking trails.